Friday, August 05, 2005


THE TALENT DRAIN (I told you so!)

From left: Yannick Trembley (Thrashers), Marcus Ragnarsson (Leafs),
Trevor Kidd (Leafs) and Igor Korolev (Blackhawks)

When the NHL announced it's new salary cap system I predicted there would be a drain of talent to European teams that could offer more lucrative contracts, and that this would be especially true of European players. So far, some forty men who played in North America before the lock out have left for Europe. The four pictured above are by far the most significant, but at least 18 players with significant NHL experience have already bolted. So far the Maple Loafs have taken the biggest hit, losing a legitimate star in Ragnarsson and excellent back up in Kidd. But they are not alone in the boat.

The Detroit Red Wings appear to be on the verge of losing their three bright young stars, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nick Kronwall to Europe. Pavel Datsyuk has a very lucrative offer from the team he played for during the lockout, Moscow Dynamo. There appears to be no way the Wings can come up with the $4 mil it will take to sign him. Zetterberg is extremely unhappy with what the Wings have offered him so far. He has better offers from his old team in the Swedish Elite League, and from a Swiss team. If his best buddy Datsyuk flies, look for him to follow suit. Kronwell has offers in both Sweden and the Czech Republic that appear to be far better than what he is making with the Wings.

This has the makings of being a disaster for the NHL. Not only are Datsyuk and Zetterberg two of the leagues most exciting young players, they play on the leagues most important team. TV ratings, in both the US and Canada, jump 10% when the Wings play. They have the NHL's largest fan base scattered all across North America. Wings parephenalia outsells it's closest competitor, the Leafs, 2 to 1. Cutting your premier franchise off at the knees can't be good for the long term health of your league.

The talent drain is only likely to get worse. A large number of teams have spent far too much money on high profile players, leaving them little room under the cap to fill out their squads. This means a large pool of quality free agents to be signed, and a very small pool of money to sign them. So either a lot of guys are going to sign bargain basement contracts, or look to Europe for better deals. I'm guessing a significant number will opt for the latter.

Here is the list of players with significant NHL experience who have left for Europe so far:

Jason Holland - LA
Andreas Johanson - Nash
Craig Johnson - Was
Trevor Kidd - Tor
Igor Korolev - Chi
Chritian La Flamme - St. Louis
Cory Larose - ATL
Andreas Lilja - Nash
Dominic Pittis - Buff
Jamie Pollock - St. L
Deron Quint - Chi
Marcus Ragnarson - Tor
Robert Shnabel- Nash
Radovan Somik - Phi
Yannick Tremblet - Atl
Roman Turek - Cgy
Jamie Wright - Edm

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